Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the second featured newly elected Congressman Fred Keller, who visited The Standard-Journal following his special election victory.
MILTON — Congressman Fred Keller (R-Pa. 12) hoped policy makers could stop defining people in narrow terms.
Recently elected to Congress after more than eight years in the State House, Keller said he occasionally looks at a photo taken when he was young. It was among his mother’s belongings and was taken at the place they lived.
“By today’s standards I probably would have been defined as at-risk or disadvantaged,” he said. “No, we were just poor. We didn’t know it, but it was abundantly clear. We were poor.”
Keller said he never would have imagined being elected to the State House or Congress even as recently as 15 years ago. He said it illustrated that the founders of the nation were wise in recognizing self-government comes from the citizens.
“I didn’t graduate from college,” Keller said. “I’m one of the few in Congress that have not. Not the only one, but we would probably be a minority.”
Keller stressed that was not advocating people do not go to college, as education and job training were always important.
“It is possible that there are more pathways to success than sometimes I think we want to admit,” he said. “I get the value of an education. I was taught that by my grandmother, I just couldn’t afford it.”
Working for Conestoga Wood Specialties allowed Keller the opportunity to get training and take business classes. Conestoga had a joint venture with Bingaman and Son Lumber in Kreamer where he began work after high school in 1985.
The closure of Wood-Mode, also in Kreamer, hit close to home. Keller, in the State House at the time, said his brother-in-law was among the more than 900 people who lost their jobs.
“I got the text from him at about 3:05 p.m. that day,” Keller said. “(Jason) started there in 1978, right out of school. In Snyder County Wood-Mode was the place to work back in the 1980s. Your dad worked at Wood-Mode, you wanted to work at Wood-Mode.”
A federal statute requiring 60 days notice of layoffs or closure did not apply, as Wood-Mode was a private company. Keller said his focus would remain making sure people who’d lost their jobs could be successful in the next stages of their careers.
“I think all levels of government from the county commissioners to the state and federal government did the right thing,” he said. “We’re still working to help the people that were displaced.”
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.